Windows users still need DOS. (Column)
by Tony Roberts
Unless you have the world's most extensive collection of Windows software, you may find yourself at the DOS prompt a dozen times a day. Why? Maybe you don't have a Windows file compression utility, so you hop to DOS to unzip a compressed file. Maybe you want a quick directory listing of all the files on your hard disk with a certain extension, and you find it easier to get a directory from DOS than from File Manager.
Perhaps you'd rather create directories and copy files from the command line, or maybe you have several favorite DOS utilities for which there just aren't any good Windows equivalents.
Hopping back and forth between Windows and DOS, however, isn't without its problems. Sometimes, you forget Windows is running and try to run it again. Occasionally, you try to run a DOS command such as Chkdsk, which shouldn't be run while Windows is active.
Here are a few tips for those of you who combine Windows and DOS. And I'm speaking here of Windows 3.1 and DOS 5.0. If you haven't upgraded to the latest versions, you're running a hobbled system.
How would you like to have a special prompt when you're running a DOS session from Windows? It's easy to do this by setting the WINPMT environment variable. The best place to do this is in your AUTOEXEC.BAT file, right after the Prompt command. Try this, for example: SET WINPMT=Windows is active.$[underscore]$[underscore]$p$I
When DOS is running as a child of Windows, you'll see the prompt reminding you that Windows is active; otherwise, when DOS is running alone, you'll get your regular prompt.
A DOS Imitation
If you like to issue commands at a command line but you don't want to leave Windows, take a look at a program such as WinCLI (Eschalon Development, 110-2 Renaissance Square, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada V3M 6K3; 604-520-1543; $35 for shareware registration).
WinCLI gives you a DOS-like environment in a Windows window. You'll have access to many DOS commands, including Attrib, CD, Copy, Dir, Del, Label, MD, Type, Path, Prompt, Rename, and RD. With these commands at hand, you can carry out most of your file management chores without having to leave Windows.
In addition, you can start any Windows or DOS program simply by typing its name at the WinCLI prompt. And the nice thing about WinCLI is that it looks and behaves like a Windows program. If you run windows in standard mode, you'll probably find WinCLI faster and more efficient than a true DOS box.
A Better-Than-DOS DOS
If you really like DOS and want to take full control of your DOS sessions, you'll like EDOS--Enhanced DOS for Windows (Firefly Software, 1594 SW Fifth, Gresham, Oregon 97080; 800-248-0908; $39.95).
EDOS gives you all kinds of control over DOS sessions started under Windows running in 386 enhanced mode. With EDOS, you can do all the following.
* Run DOS sessions as large as 736K.
* Set alarms to let a DOS session running in the background signal you when its task is complete.
* Use Alt-F4 to close a DOS session.
* View or print the Windows clipboard from the DOS prompt.
In addition, EDOS gives you several tools to fine-tune your DOS sessions so they're running at optimum speed. The Systime and Boxtime commands can show you how much processing time a DOS application is receiving from Windows, and the Prif and Prib commands permit you to modify a DOS session's foreground and background priorities.
Other EDOS commands allow you to add memory to a DOS session, to change the time slice allocated by Windows, and to set the background or exclusive settings for the session.
If you don't like having a surfeit of PIF files hanging around your system, you can start your DOS sessions with the default PIF and use EDOS commands, either at the command line or in batch files, to modify the session parameters as needed.
On the other hand, if you're already swimming in PIF files but you can't remember which PIF goes with what, EDOS has a solution. From any windowed DOS session, you can choose PIF Editor from the Control Menu to view and edit the PIF that controls the current DOS session.
Another welcome EDOS feature is that it disables dangerous DOS commands, such as Chkdsk, Fastopen, Assign, and Append.
If you really like to call all the shots, in and out of Windows, you'll be happy with the control EDOS provides.